Friday, April 24, 2009

M Hulot has lost his pipe...

One of the interesting things about being an American, married to an Englishman, and living in France is the exposure I've had to each country's sense of humor. From the Saturday Night Live, Bill Cosby, and Eddie Murphy comedy of my youth, to the Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Lee Evans comedy of Britain, I now find myself in a country where comedy exists, but not in a shape or form that I easily recognize.

There is one French comedian, however, that I was introduced to early on who in my opinion tops the list of comedic geniuses, and that man was Jacques Tati. His comedy to me is the best kind- intelligent, and thought-provoking, sure, but also the kind where when the sketch or film is over, your body aches from laughing and there is a slight possibility that you may have wet yourself at some point along the way.

If you haven't seen Mon Oncle, Jour de Fête, or M Hulot's Holiday yet, you have deprived yourself of some seriously brillant ridiculousness.

Unfortunately, Jacques Tati has made the news again recently for quite a different kind of ridiculous absurdity. A new exhibition is running in Paris at the Cinémathèque Francaise called Tati, deux temps, trois mouvements, which celebrates the 102nd birthday of the comedian, with screenings of his films, exhibits of some of the props, costumes and screenplays used in the films, walking tours of some Tati-related architectural landmarks, and a screening of a new 6-part documentary of Tati's life.

The reason this is getting so much press is that the posters they've created to promote the exhibit shows the instantly recognizable M Hulot on his bike, with his hat, but instead of the usual pipe sticking out of his mouth, they've replaced it with a little yellow pinwheel. Apparently, the pipe would have contravened the law against smoking in advertisements.

I guess I can understand why there are laws against the Marlboro Man, or the woman reclining on a yacht smoking a Virginia Slim, but honestly, do they really think children are going to rush out to smoke a pipe after they've seen this advertisement? Just when I thought I was recovering from the shock of France actually obeying the smoking ban, I'm now witnessing a form of zealotry that I thought I'd left behind me in the States. I'm sure he is breaking some law by not wearing a bike helmet; I'm surprised they didn't slap one of those on him as well...

I guess we better start getting used to seeing images of Groucho without his cigar, Holly Golightly without her cigarette holder, and Jean-Paul Sartre without his Gauloise stub. And it's probably best if we just forget about George Burns altogether.

It seems that long after his death, and as he did with all of his films, Jacques Tati is still providing us with a surreal version of modern day France. It's just a shame he isn't still here to give some comedic levity to some of these modern French absurdities.

1 comment:

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